Born in slavery on April 12, 1859, in Louisville, Kentucky, Junius George Groves came to Kansas at the age of 19 as an Exoduster. He worked at the meat packing houses in Armourdale and later moved to Edwardsville.
Here Groves purchased 80 acres of land and began to raise white potatoes. His business prospered and he became known as the “Potato King of the World” because he reportedly grew more bushels of potatoes per acre than anyone else in the world. He also bought and shipped potatoes, seed potatoes, and other produce, as well as owning a store in Edwardsville and having numerous other business interests. The Union Pacific Railway built a special spur to his property to accommodate his needs.
He was a founding member of the Kansas State Negro Business League, the Kaw Valley Potato Association, the Sunflower State Agricultural Association, and the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church Society. He was featured in Booker T. Washington’s book, The Negro in Business, (1907).
At the height of his success, he owned more than 500 acres. Groves and his wife, Matilda, built a 20-room mansion, which featured the latest comforts of the day—electricity, hot and cold running water, and telephones.
In the early 1900s, he founded the community of Groves Center near Edwardsville, selling small tracts of land to African American families. He also built a golf course for African Americans, possibly the first such course in the county.
Junius Groves died in Edwardsville in 1925.